Club Focus – Newcastle – Sweetest of victories over bitterest of rivals eases pressure on Hughton

Newcastle produced a fine performance that will live long in the fans’ memories as they ran out 5-1 victors over their fiercest rivals. A hat-trick from Kevin Nolan and two more from local lad Shola Ameobi ensured that local bragging rights would belong to the black and whites over the red and whites, at least until the return fixture on January 16. If there were any doubts over the future of manager Chris Hughton this performance must surely have silenced any of his critics.

According to some reports in the media Hughton’s position would have been almost untenable had he lost Newcastle’s biggest fixture of the season. However the routing of Sunderland should dispel any fears over his future for the next few months at least. Surely now the Newcastle board should hand Hughton a long term deal to bring an end the uncertainty. Speaking after the game Hughton said: “I can’t do anything about my contract situation, all I can do is the best job I can. I’m helped by a group of spirited players that are capable of anything.

The team spirit that Hughton seems to mention in every interview certainly played its part on Sunday as Newcastle’s commitment and work ethic provided the back bone for their five star display. But there is more to this Newcastle side than just grit and determination as they also showed their quality in the final third – something which has not always shown in their home displays. This result may finally put to bed the Magpies’ home problems where they had previously taken just one point out a possible nine versus average opposition. The front pairing of Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll again was very effective as they dominated in the air despite facing Sunderland’s much lauded central defenders. Ameobi appears to revel in the derby spotlight as his two goals took his tally to six goals in total against the Black Cats. Carroll was at his belligerent best as he helped to set up two of the goals.

If there was one stand out performer in an excellent all round team display then hat-trick hero Kevin Nolan deserves a special mention. The attacking midfielder has been on fire since returning from a spell out of the action in the previous game against West Ham. He now has four goals in just two games and appears refreshed since Hughton dropped him for the Wigan game. The club captain has at times this season been criticised for lacking the pace and mobility needed to play in the Premier League. But his knack of bursting into the penalty area to get on the end of knockdowns is a skill that few other attacking midfielders possess. Nolan also showed his professionalism by allowing the designated penalty taker Ameobi to score from the spot when he was chasing a hat-trick. But his selflessness was rewarded when he was in the right place at the right time to score his third.

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